EU fines Hello Kitty owner for limiting online sales

People walk past a statue of Hello Kitty on her 40th birthday at the entrance of Sanrio Puroland theme park in Tokyo November 1, 2014. — Reuters pic
People walk past a statue of Hello Kitty on her 40th birthday at the entrance of Sanrio Puroland theme park in Tokyo November 1, 2014. — Reuters pic

BRUSSELS, July 9 — The EU’s top anti-trust regulator on Wednesday fined Hello Kitty owner Sanrio €6.2 million (RM28.8 million) for illegally blocking retailers from selling merchandise across bloc borders.

“Consumers, whether they are buying a Hello Kitty mug or a Chococat toy, can now take full advantage of one of the main benefits of the EU’s single market: the ability to shop around Europe for the best deals,” said Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

The relatively low fine came as a result of Sanrio’s cooperation in the case, which was jointly launched against Nike and Universal Studio.

In March, the commission fined Nike €12.5 million, with no decision yet taken against Universal.

The case is part of the EU’s ambition to build a digital single market across the union of 28 countries and 500 million people, which as a bloc is the world’s biggest economy.

The commission is especially keen to fight companies that break EU competition rules by restricting a manufacturer’s or retailer’s ability to sell licensed merchandise cross-border and online.

These deals limit consumers’ ability to shop for highly popular merchandised products across EU borders in the hunt for cheaper prices.

Hello Kitty, Japan’s moon-faced icon of cute, has spawned a multi-billion-dollar industry since Sanrio introduced her in 1974.

The mouthless character, with her child-like hair bow and a registered height of five apples, is now found in 130 countries on more than 50,000 branded products every year, according to Sanrio. — AFP

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